This is another one of those posts that I am dreading to write. There’s no way that anything I’ll be able to write will encapsulate the absolute decadence we bathed in this evening. From start to finish, the entire experience was unforgettable.
I arrive and am severely underdressed for this place, but I call it First-Class Chic. A lot of times in first class, there are these women with huge sunglasses and velour sweat suits; they look like they just threw their outfits on to run outside and get the paper from the driveway? My dad used to have a theory that dressing in a suit and tie got him upgraded to first class more easily (this has been shot to hell in the last few years of airline cutbacks), my theories differ. I figure that less that you appear to care about the luxury of the place, the more well off you probably are. You never wonder about a man in a jacket in a place like Tocqueville; but in a t-shirt and sneakers … there’s something to that guy.
I played that guy this evening, even though my bankroll couldn’t be further from the truth. I met my well-dressed dining companion – she’d already ordered her first glass of wine; big mistake. We’d be getting just past the tipsy point this evening and if you click on the video, you’ll see me a little less dynamic than usual, and Rachel quite sauced up. I don’t know which part she didn’t want me to include, but I think I went easy on her.
This was my second fantastic sommelier experience in as many evenings. It’s an interesting thing, this project. Going to all these amazing places and experiencing masters of the craft of food, I am becoming a great deal more conscious of different tastes. The biggest change I am going through right now is that I’m now appreciating wine and the complexities of wine pairings more than I used to. I have absolutely no doubt that it is due to the passion and enthusiasm of the sommeliers that I’ve met on this tour.
Enough about the supporting actors, let;’s talk about the star of the show. This meal was incredible from start to finish, starting with the Goat Cheese-Stuffed Fried Beets (top). I know these have a sexier name, but they’re the current amuse bouche at the restaurant. I was surprised that even with the tart goat cheese, the beety character still came through.
Our bread course was Cheese Puffs (pic). I ate seven of these things. Mind you, I am full or borderline full all the time and am only required to try one.
The next items were the Salad of Greenmarket Autumn Vegetables (above) and Confit of Veal Tongue (pic). Rachel said there was too much going on with the salad. I disagreed. She then said that she would just eat straight lettuce for days on end, so I feel pretty strong about my recommendation on this one. To be honest, there was a lot to it and I can see where she was going with her thought. It might be overwhelming to someone looking forward to something simpler. The tongue was intense. it was drizzled in a tart, vinegary reduction and served on a bed of creamy wheat faro (kind of like a risotto). This was my second experience with tongue this project and I have to say that it was quite and upgrade over 188 Restaurant Cuchifrito (link). The sommelier paired a Gewurztraminer (2005 Steinklotz Grand Cru) with this one; the sweetness tied it all together like a nice persian rug.
Our mid-course was the California Sea Urchin and Angel Hair Carbonara (pic). Rachel, who absolutely adores urchin, couldn’t get enough. We both struggled for the first few minutes, trying to negotiate the angel hair with the urchin. When I decided to take their hint and use the spoon provided with the course to twirl Rachel quickly followed suit. We had a Chanpagne (Cuvee Carte Dâ€™Or from Demilly De Baer) and this was almost the opposite experience for me, the tart Champagne balancing the sweetness of the urchin.
Our main course was the absolutely, positively otherworldly: Seared Diver Sea Scallops and Foie Gras (above). I’m not copping out, I just can’t put into words how excited I was to see at taste this. If you can’t afford a whole dinner here, just pop in and order this. Split it even. If you try one thing new this week, this should be it.
We were quite full by dessert (and pretty loopy on wine) but dug into the Vanilla-Caramel Roasted Bosc Pear (above). I had trouble photographing this one because of the height of the pear and the darkness of the stem. The top of the pear disappeared against the deep browns of the rest of the room. I think I did the best I could with that shot.. The ginger ice cream accompanying the pear was my favorite of the trio – smooth and airy.
Complete without excess from start to finish. This was one of the most thoughtfully presented meals that I’ve had in my entire life.
Unfortunately, this is the footage you get when the restaurants’s light is too low to shoot during the meal and there’s an awesome sommelier:
The IRL Arts Foundation and The Wandering Foodie thank Tocqueville for providing this meal.
1 E 15th St
New York, NY 10003